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A Christmas Dream

A Christmas Dream

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Published by: Sathyanand Swaminathan on May 25, 2012
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A CHRISTMAS DREAM, AND HOW IT CAME TRUE

By Louisa May Alcott
In the Public Domain

I’m so tired of Christmas I wish there never would be another one!” exclaimed
a discontented-looking little girl, as she sat idly watching her mother arrange a pile of gifts two days before they were to be given. “Why, Effie, what a dreadful thing to say! You are as bad as old Scrooge; and I’m afraid something will happen to you, as it did to him, if you don’t care for dear Christmas,” answered mamma, almost dropping the silver horn she was filling with delicious candies. “Who was Scrooge? What happened to him?” asked Effie, with a glimmer of interest in her listless face, as she picked out the sourest lemon-drop she could find; for nothing sweet suited her just then. “He was one of Dickens’s best people, and you can read the charming story some day. He hated Christmas until a strange dream showed him how dear and beautiful it was, and made a better man of him.” “I shall read it;’ for I like dreams, and have a great many curious ones myself. But they don’t keep me from being tired of Christmas,” said Effie, poking discontentedly among the sweeties for something worth eating. “Why are you tired of what should be the happiest time of all the year?” asked mamma, anxiously. “Perhaps I shouldn’t be if I had something new. But it is always the same, and there isn’t any more surprise about it. I always find heaps of goodies in my stocking. Don’t like some of them, and soon get tired of those I do like. We always have a great dinner, and I eat too much, and feel ill next day. Then there is a Christmas tree somewhere, with a doll on top, or a stupid old Santa Claus, and children dancing and screaming over bonbons and toys that break, and shiny things that are of no use. Really, mamma, I’ve had so many Christmases all alike that I don’t think I can bear another one.” And Effie laid herself flat on the sofa, as if the mere idea was too much for her. Her mother laughed at her despair, but was sorry to see her little girl so discontented, when she had everything to make her happy, and had known but ten Christmas days. “Suppose we don’t give you any presents at all—how would that suit you?” asked mamma, anxious to please her spoiled child. “I should like one large and splendid one, and one dear little one, to remember some very nice person by,” said Effie, who was a fanciful little body,
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and sleep on an ash-heap at night?” asked mamma.” “I’ll have a fairy tale tonight. as she put on her blue silk wrapper and little furlined slippers to sit before the fire and have her long curls brushed. and eating a cold potato as if it tasted nicer than the chicken and ice-cream I had for dinner.full of odd whims and notions. “Cinderella did. wondering what would come next. I will see what I can do to please you. and had a nice time in the end. though the water runs out of the toes of her boots. and toast your feet. and wandering off to the library. a very interesting one.” commanded Effie. If I could only get a new idea to start with!” And mamma went on tying up her pretty bundles with a thoughtful face. to beg all day. sometimes. “while I do your pretty hair and tell stories. I’m so tired of them I never want to see them again. and not say a word until all is ready. and ragged. trouble. laughing at the rain. read it all before tea. She’ goes paddling’ along.” said Effie’s nurse. and let you begin again with something you will not tire of. All the evening she thought of poor Tiny Tim. Cratchit with the pudding. Mrs. This girl out here has a basket of scraps on her arm. I do think poor children are happier than rich ones. “Seems to me poor children have better times than rich ones. “Come now. 2 . I can’t go out. and doesn’t seem to care a bit. which her friends loved to gratify. and very dear to all the family. cold. At the Orphan Asylum today I saw two dozen merry little souls who have no parents. and no hope of Christmas beyond a stick of candy or a cake. Yes.” “Would you like to be hungry. I wish you had been there to see how happy they were. for she was the last of three little girls. or money.” And mamma knit her brows trying to discover some grand surprise for this child who didn’t care for Christmas. Nothing more was said then. “I will.” said Effie. and there is a girl about my age splashing along. and the stout old gentleman who danced so gayly that “his legs twinkled in the air. and felt better without knowing why.” Presently bed-time arrived. no home. my darling. “Well.” “You may give them all mine. but she laughed and cried over many parts of the charming story. Some of it she did not understand. Effie found “A Christmas Carol. playing with the old toys some richer children had sent them. and a big old shawl all round her. I wish I was a beggar-girl. turning from the window to the pretty baby-house full of everything a child’s heart could desire.” and. while Effie strolled to the window to watch the rain that kept her in-doors and made her dismal. regardless of time. if I can only find it. with out any maid to fuss about rubbers and cloaks and umbrellas and colds. curling herself up in the sofa corner.” “So do I.

Making winter spring With the joy we bring For Christmas-tide is here. But the more she thought about it. Far away a dim light shone. and starting up. and I think I must be lost. snow-storms. colder blew the wind. all alone. For Christmas-tide has come. her feet felt like icicles. the more bewildered she felt. “From our happy home Through the world we roam One week in all the year. Faster fell the snow. and forlorn was she. sugar-plums. which she never quite forgot. so hungry. with the curious interest one takes in one’s self in dreams. and surprises. “I wanted to be a beggar-girl. and tired. and when at last the child lay down under her lace curtains. Gifts freely flow. in the middle of a great field. and her heart died within her. her head was fun of a curious jumble of Christmas elves. Laying her head on her knees. Abloom with tempting cheer. “Now gay trees rise Before young eyes. and the sweet words of the song grew clearer. 3 . She found herself sitting on a stone. cold. “Now the eastern star Shines from afar To light the poorest home. and wish somebody would come and take care of me.So Nursey told her best tales. The tears were chilled on her cheeks. and poor Effie made up her mind that she was quite forgotten and left to freeze alone. She felt hungry. She tried to run toward the welcome glimmer. The snow was falling fast. but could not stir. when suddenly the sound of music reached her. she looked and listened with all her eyes and ears.” thought Effie. a bitter wind whistled by. and did not know where to go nor what to do. I don’t know who I am. darker ‘grew the night. and night was coming on. frightened. Hearts warmer grow. poor children. and this was the dream. and sat there with the great flakes fast turning her to a little white mound. So it is no wonder that she dreamed all night. but I don’t like it. and stood like a small statue of expectation while the light drew nearer. and now I am one. she gave herself up for lost. and a voice was heard singing.

” cried Effie. and vanished when she had eagerly drunk the last drop. gladly. a bowl of hot soup came sailing to her lips.” With a wave of his candle all three miracles were wrought—for the snowflakes turned to a white fur cloak and hood on Effie’s head and shoulders. dear day. and the other outstretched as if to shower gifts and warmly press all other hands. for this is my holiday. Oh. getting ready for our holiday. “First I will make you comfortable. I am a Christmas spirit. and in the circle of soft light it shed. sorrowful. wrapped in white fur.’ All creatures say. For Christmas-tide is here. blessed time. Effie saw a pretty child coming to her through the night and snow. hungry. smiling creature. at his coming. with a wreath of green and scarlet holly on its shining hair. That draws us all so near! ‘Welcome. the magic candle in one hand. a child’s hand carried the little candle. and filling the air with the music of its song. and you shall be warm. and I will make you gay. while every holly berry glowed like a little fire. Effie forgot to speak as this bright vision came nearer.” A child’s voice sang. you are lost. “Dear child. and suddenly the dismal field changed to a new world so full of wonders that all her troubles were forgotten in a minute. and I gather them from all parts of the world to be merry with me once a year. and live with my mates in a pleasant place. “I know all children. 4 . And blithe bells ring. feeling no fear.” “Are you an angel?” asked Effie. taking Effie’s cold hands in his. “Oh. Will you come and see how we work?” “I will go anywhere with you. “No. and I will feed you. Don’t leave me again. For Christmas-tide is here. happy chime. but a great gladness. when we are let out to roam about the world. looking for the wings. “Do you know me?” asked Effie. only lighting the way with its little candle. A rosy.” said the stranger. helping to make this a happy time for all who will let us in. leaving no trace of footsteps in the snow. and I have come to find you. and go to find them. with a smile like sunshine. That is what we love to do.“Blithe voices sing. You are cold.

and little men hurrying to and fro. even after you come to see that they are only the pleasant shadow of a lovely truth. gratitude and contentment. and wrote checks which they sent flying away on the wind—a lovely kind of snow-storm to fall into a world below full of poverty. these are the saints just setting off. while all the spirits gave a cheer that was heard in the lower world. Children had more love and duty to parents. in which the records of the past year were kept. and everything dolls use or wear or want. for some have far to go. and what sort of gifts they deserved. out of which four great sleighs were just driving. Green garlands hung on the walls. never tired of getting ready for the happy day. Now. and parents renewed patience. Some got peace. drawing on his mittens and tucking up his wraps for a long cold drive. Shops were there. “This is the Christmas world. wisdom. through which Effie peeped into a world of dolls. I think. turning off work faster than any sewing-machine ever invented. and tiny people buying legs of mutton. and the children must not be disappointed. express wagons rumbling.” As he spoke the spirit pointed to four gates.” Just then the sleighs went off with a great jingling of bells and pattering of reindeer hoofs. and the streets were full of tin soldiers marching. “Why.” The spirit smiled as he led the way to a little door. mites of clothes. See. with dolls of all sorts going on like live people. while a jolly old Santa Claus sat in the middle of each. astonished at the sight. telling how different people had spent it.” cried Effie. “Never give up your faith in the sweet old stories. where people said. Other busy creatures packed money into purses. Waxen ladies sat in their parlors elegantly dressed. “Please tell me what splendid place this is?” asked Effie.Bells were ringing so merrily that it was hard to keep from dancing. and great piles were made ready to be sent to poor people. some remorse and sorrow. Baby-houses were in full blast. “Hear the stars sing. The rich had generous thoughts sent them.” “I never will say there isn’t any Santa Claus again. I thought there was only one Santa Claus. the poor. In one place many little spirits sewed like mad on warm clothes. laden with toys. and here we work all the year round. pounds of tea. and may learn something here perhaps. some disappointment. and every tree was a Christmas tree full of toys. some great joy and hope. as soon as she could collect her wits after the first look at all these astonishing things. 5 . and blazing with candles that never went out. and satisfaction for and in their children. Older and graver spirits were looking over piles of little books.” “You will like to see this place. nurses walked out with the bits of dollies. and even he was a humbug. black dolls cooked in the kitchens. wooden horses prancing. No one was forgotten. show me more.

and so badly painted that its face would have sent some babies into fits. and get bad marks every day. “Seems to me I once knew a rich girl who didn’t give her things to poor girls. much impressed. and she watched eagerly to learn why they did these things. as if he enjoyed some joke which she did not see. but could not resist one look in at the window of a fine mansion. much touched at the sweet way the pretty creature wrapped up the poor fright. thinking of her own Christmases.” said Effie. “No. “I know. as if it were the proper thing to do. where 6 . you have never seen what I will show you. and away scampered the children into the red-and-green school-house with the roof that lifted up. show me something else. as if begging her to go away before the order of the school was disturbed. and never grumbled a bit when their mamma said they could not have any more fruit. We make a great racket at our school. where the family were at dinner. giving her his hand again. let me show you where we love best to send our good and happy gifts. as she peeped in and saw no rod in the hand of the little mistress.” answered the spirit. and remember what you see tonight. Another interesting china lady took off her comfortable red cloak and put it round a poor wooden creature done up in a paper shift. I think the girl you speak of won’t forget this one.But presently she saw that in some ways the dolls improved upon the manners and customs of human beings. Come away. and then ran off in her little gray gown to buy a shiny fowl stuck on a wooden platter for her invalid mother’s dinner. and Effie found herself in a part of the city she had never seen before.” began Effie. I wish I could remember who she was. A fine Paris doll driving in her carriage took up a black worsted Dinah who was hobbling along with a basket of clean clothes. “Now. or their dolls will be better scholars than they are. “We recall these things to people’s minds by dreams. and carried her to her journey’s end. It was far away from the gayer places. and tell her to be as kind as that china doll. A little bell rang as she looked. so one could see how nicely they sat at their desks with mites of books. who looked up and shook her head at the intruder. the children behaved so well at table. I shall tell the girls they had better mind what they do. and are as still as mice.” said Effie. Effie retired at once. as they came again to the low door that led out of Doll-land.” she said.” And the spirit smiled. or drew on the inch-square blackboards with crumbs of chalk. I’ve seen ever so many. “They know their lessons very well.” Like a flash that bright world vanished. “You have seen how we prepare for Christmas.

longing to buy meat and bread.” said Effie. and be loved and thanked as they are. It was down among the dingy streets where the poor lived. no little stockings hung in rows beside the chimney-piece ready to be filled. tables spread as if by magic. no happy sounds of music. Hungry women looked in at the shabby shops. while people hurried to and fro with merry greetings. 7 . “That is so beautiful! I wish I could make merry Christmas as these good people do. stay and show me more!” cried Effie. Flowers suddenly bloomed in the chambers of the sick. But the sweetest work was for the children. but empty pockets forbade. “Oh. working such beautiful miracles that Effie could only stand and watch. following where he led her. and in many cold dark chambers little children huddled under the thick blankets. no gay trees dropped toys and bonbons into eager hands. softly. “You can if you will. as she held fast the spirit’s hand. and warm clothes wrapped round shivering limbs. gay voices. old people found themselves remembered. sad hearts were consoled by a tender word. No nice dinners filled the air with savory smells. shivering. and sent the happy mothers to buy all the comforts they needed. “Don’t they have any in this place?” asked Effie. Let me show you our best workers. and Effie held her breath to watch these human fairies hang up and fill the little stockings without which a child’s Christmas is not perfect.” And the spirit pointed to some sweet-faced men and women who came stealing into the poor houses. “We come to bring it. Try it. the spirit seemed to put his arms about her. as she watched the busy men and women do their work and steal away without thinking of any reward but their own satisfaction. and wicked ones softened by the story of Him who forgave all sin. and every house wore a festival air. Tipsy men drank up their wages in the barrooms. I have shown you the way. but which now seemed beautiful and precious because these poor babies had nothing. putting in things that once she would have thought very humble presents. and took them home to find safer pleasures there.” As he spoke. Fires were kindled on cold hearths. and see how happy your own holiday will be hereafter. trying to hold him fast.every store was brilliant with lights and full of pretty things. trying to forget their misery in sleep. Some slipped money into the empty pockets. and vanished with a kiss. and dancing feet were heard. and where there was no making ready for Christmas. and there were no signs of Christmas anywhere. others led the drunken men out of temptation.

there was mamma bending over her.” said a voice in her ear. 8 . come to breakfast. and seen through the day were mixed up in her sleep. for we must work like bees if we want to play spirits tomorrow. mamma. rubbing her eyes. no party. and looking about her for the pretty child who was so real and sweet. and tell me why you are smiling in your sleep. no. and have a tree or something. “Tell me! tell me!” shrieked Effie. evidently charmed with her happy thought. wake up. as he did. and no presents for you. You and Nursey will go out shopping. for I know you are going to ask some poor children here. for I have no magic candle to make feasts appear. “How? how? You must tell me. in this house at all. “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!—the new idea. you have. while Nursey laughed as if she would die. Effie told her dream. and Effie called out breathlessly—. read. “It won’t be a surprise. laughing. sorrowfully.“Darling. and opening her eyes. “The spirit said I could work lovely miracles if I tried. A splendid one. while she was being dressed.” said mamma. if I can only carry it out!” And mamma waltzed the little girl round till her curls flew wildly in the air. “Yes. and morning sunshine streaming into the room. and get heaps of things. and ready to believe anything possible when she remembered the adventures of the past night. and Nursey thought it very wonderful. Then. but mamma smiled to see how curiously things the child had thought. and light up groves of Christmas trees. while I arrange matters behind the scenes. “You have been dreaming at a great rate—talking in your sleep. “No. but I don’t know how to begin.” said Effie.” They were running downstairs as mamma spoke.” cried Effie. “Are they all gone? Did you hear the bells? Wasn’t it splendid?” she asked. mamma suddenly began to dance all over the room as if she had lost her wits. It won’t be like my dream. it is a surprise—a grand surprise for Christmas day!” sung mamma. We will do it! we will do it!” And clapping her hands. dancing after her. Tell me what was so splendid. heard. smoothing the tumbled hair and lifting up the sleepy head. “Now. and more children than we can find anywhere. for they had ever so many trees.” “There will be no tree.. no dinner. Won’t that be a surprise?” And mamma laughed at Effie’s bewildered face. and clapping your hands as if you were cheering some one.

Nursey chuckled. for at seven in the evening the surprise was to come off. led her to the carriage. I know you will like it. They drove into a dark yard.” “Do stop. and I won’t ask any questions. and squeaking birds. but wouldn’t give a hint. “Merry Christmas!” to her. woolly lambs. buying dozens of barking dogs. Nursey. leaving their house the one dark and silent one in the row. and came in at night so tired that she could only lie on the sofa to rest. quite quivering with excitement as she patted a large box in her lap. as they jingled through the gay streets. and don’t say one word whatever you see. and she kept her eye on the clock. she was quite invisible all day. or I shall go crazy because I don’t know the secret!” cried Effie. and long remember this new way of making Christmas merry. and do just as I tell you. for this really would be a new sort of Christmas. missing the usual merry stir that went before the Christmas dinner and the evening fun. more than once. no one said. my deary. “Ah.” answered Nursey.“Do it. and they drove away. Mamma vanished again. No one but your blessed ma could have done it. and she ate her breakfast thoughtfully.” said Effie. where Nursey coolly proceeded to take off not only her cloak and hood 9 . it is like a fairy tale. and nodded and laughed with twinkling eyes. “Is the surprise going on all right?” asked Effie. no pile of gifts under her napkin. gay picture-books. I do assure you. tiny tea-sets. for it seemed an immense time to wait till another evening came. and the child was too excited to ask questions when Nursey put on her cloak and hood. now. and Effie went to bed. I think. The longed-for hour arrived at last. dear. so it will all burst upon me when the time comes. All that morning Effie trotted after Nursey in and out of shops. and you will see finer things than most children will tonight. mittens and hoods. though she peeped everywhere. and Effie was led through a back door to a little room.” Mamma gave her a very tender kiss. I shall like it. in a whisper. for when she woke there was no stocking to examine. The next day was a very strange one. Parcel after parcel was sent home. but when Effie returned she saw no trace of them. “Beautifully! better than I expected. while Effie wandered forlornly about the house. As for mamma. Steady. and Nursey kept wiping her eyes and saying: “The dear things! It’s the prettiest idea I ever heard of. for several of my good friends are helping. “I feel like the girls in the fairy tales who are led off to strange places and see fine things. smiling as if some very pleasant thought made her happy in spite of weariness. and the dinner was just as usual to her. and went out again in the afternoon with a long list of more things to buy. or I couldn’t have done as I wish. dolls and candy. anxiously.” she said.

and when she was dressed and saw herself in the glass. where something like leaves touched her head. she started back. and your ma will be there. my pretty! Now whist. my precious. She shall play the good fairy. “Now. and make this a happy day for those who had not as many pleasures and comforts as she has. ending in this way: “So my little girl wanted to be a Christmas spirit too. but kept still until out of the box came a little white fur coat and boots. “How splendid! Who is it for? What is that noise? Where is mamma?” cried Effie. as she stood looking down the brilliant little street from her high place. and we planned this for you all. I look like the spirit in my dream!” “So you do. while I blind your eyes and put you in your place. and behind Effie a taller one rose to the roof. and the tramp was evidently coming up the stairs. Twelve on a side. Nursey led Effie up some steps. Effie stared and bit her lips. after which everyone will find her own 10 . in two rows down the room. as well as heaps that seemed to have rained down straight from that delightful Christmas country where she felt as if she was again. “Why. A long “Oh!” escaped her then. and holding her hand fast to give her courage. until amazement changed the song to cries of joy and wonder as the shining spectacle appeared. She likes surprises. and the soft snap of lamps seemed to fill the air. Before Nursey could answer. for she actually stood in “a grove of Christmas trees. and a candle with a frill of gold paper round it. While they stood staring with round eyes at the wilderness of pretty things about them. horns of candy. singing sweetly. stood the little pines. Nursey. the voices outside sounded nearer. and cakes of all sorts.but her dress and shoes also. for as they went out she heard the sound of many voices. and placed her on a high platform. in spite of the bandage. apples. Music began as soon as Nursey clapped her hands. told the story of the dream in a few simple words. I shall stand close by. pale with pleasure and surprise. “You needn’t be. exclaiming. and. and for a minute Effie really did think she was asleep again. was sure a great light shone upon her when she stopped.” all gay and shining as in her vision. the doors at the lower end flew open. mamma stepped up beside Effie.” “Shall I be afraid?” whispered Effie. On the smaller trees she saw many of her own discarded toys and those Nursey bought. from sugary hearts to gingerbread Jumbos. full of wonder. each on its low table. and that’s the part you are to play. and in marched twenty-four little blue-gowned orphan girls. hung with wreaths of popcorn. the tramp of many feet. a wreath of holly leaves and berries. and give each of you something from this tree. look and see how you and your dear ma have made a merry Christmas for them that needed it!” Off went the bandage. oranges.” After the handkerchief was tied about her eyes.

and many a hungry childish heart felt as if the touch of those tender lips was their best gift. but mamma deserves the thanks.” Nobody told them to do it. and the little trees left bare of all but candles! “I don’t think heaven can be any gooder than this. “You may. bonbons. and touch her soft dress. and could only stammer out her thanks.name on a small tree. singing as they skipped. Effie shook so many small hands that 11 . until she stood in a crowd of blue gowns laughing as they held up their gifts for her to see and admire. “I wish I dared to go and kiss her for this splendid party. pulled and pinched. but it was late for small people. while she watched the happy scene before her. my dears. laughter and tears (for some tender little things could not bear so much pleasure at once. kissing the wistful face. Mamma leaned down and whispered one word to the older girls. while she luxuriously carried sugar-plums to her mouth with the other.” sighed one small girl. as Effie was doing.” said a lame child. How they ran to show one another the new treasures! how they peeped and tasted. and too much fun is a mistake. the floor covered with papers. and marched before Effie and mamma again. as she looked about her in a blissful maze. She did it all. Effie heard her. Then each was led to her own tree by the good ladies who had helped. and remembering Tiny Tim. dances of delight. till all were gone. I only dreamed about it. but all the hands were clapped heartily before a single child stirred. leaning on her crutch. mamma with all their hearts. and cakes. “Is that a truly angel up there?” asked another. fascinated by the little white figure with the wreath on its shining hair. and a double row of smiling faces turned toward her as the children filed back to their places in the orderly way they had been taught. and let us fill your hands. and can go to enjoy it in her own way. as she stood near the steps. and sobbed with mouths full of candy and hands full of toys). and suddenly they all took hands to dance round Effie. So the girls fell into line. wondering how it seemed to sit in a mother’s lap. who in some mysterious way had been the cause of all this merry-making. until the air was full of queer noises.” Lame Katy felt as if “a truly angel” was embracing her. while the other children ran to see the pretty spirit. as she said sweetly. and the ladies found it hard to break up the happy revel. then one by one they came to look up wonderingly at the pretty giver of the feast as she leaned down to offer them great yellow oranges. ran down and put her arms about the pale child. and the happy hubbub that arose would have satisfied even Santa Claus himself—shrieks of joy. to say good-night with such grateful little faces that the eyes of those who looked grew dim with tears. Mamma kissed every one. red apples. March by. It was a pretty sight. bunches of grapes. holding her full apron with one hand.

and mean to make one every year. it’s the prettiest thing I got. 12 . too tired and happy for anything but sleep.her own tingled. but I like it best of all the Christmases I ever had. and here is the dear little one to keep for love of poor Katy. it was a beautiful surprise. and she safe in her own bed. so even that part of my wish came true. “You didn’t have a single present. and a new love for Christmas in her heart that never changed through a long life spent in doing good. and I thank you so much! I don’t see how you ever did it. Do keep that.” “I will. “Mamma.” answered Effie. the surprise all over. and held it fast until the last smiling face was gone.” And Effie fell asleep with a happy smile on her lips. her one humble gift still in her hand. whispering. and we had lots. and when Katy came she pressed a small doll into Effie’s hand. I had my splendid big present.

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